I am enjoying those last wistful days of summer in my country garden. Several nights have had temperatures in the 30s and although my plants all survived, a few are looking the worse for wear. While we enjoy those lovely afternoons on the autumn porch summer slips reluctantly through our fingers.
You should still be watering, weeding and dead heading your garden. We will still have lovely weather and lots of time to enjoy our autumn garden but it is also time to make that list of chores for seasons end.
One of our first tasks should be preparation of house plants to return to our homes. They have been enjoying all those warm, humid days and nights in the outdoors and now it is time to come inside to the overly warm and dry indoors for the winter. I like to spray my plants with insecticidal soap to kill garden pests that are unwanted in my house. I spray and then wait about a week and spray again to kill bugs that have hatched after the first spraying. If plants need repotting this is a good time to accomplish this task. Be sure you use sterile potting soil for the transplant and if possible transplant outside where the soil can fall harmlessly to the potting shed floor. Transplanting house plants indoors can be messy.
Our roses need our attention. I deadhead my roses and prune them back to about 24 inches. Otherwise the only pruning I do is to composted cow manure close to the base of the roses. The manure is a soil amendment not fertilizer. Then I place a supply of soil near the roses to finish covering the base of the canes after the ground freezes. Don't take soil from the garden around the roses, bring in soil or use the soil from your containers.
Stockpile garden supplies now that you will need in spring. Sometimes fertilizer, composted manure, and other supplies are not on hand when you need them in spring. If you have room, stock up now.
Weed, weed, weed. Every weed you remove now is a weed that you won't need to worry about in the spring. Weeds steal water and nutrients your plants need to grow and thrive. Pull every weed you see now. Spring is busy enough without pulling last seasons weeds.
Plant, transplant or divide peonies, daylilies, poppies, iris, phlox and other summer blooming perennials. Dig and divide perennials that have grown too large for the space or have dead centers. Discard the dead section and then replant the rest of the perennial. Don't forget to water thoroughly and often. Make sure to enrich the soil with compost but do not fertilize. Plants are preparing for their winter rest.
This is a great time to plant spring bulbs with the newly planted perennials. The emerging foliage of the perennial next spring will cover the ugly dying foliage of the spring bulbs. Plant spring bulbs three times the height of the bulb with the pointy end up. This is the one thing I fertilize in fall. I use bone meal or special bulb fertilizer. I have lots of daffodils so I am going to plant some of the interesting new bulbs in our garden centers.
Do not confuse trees and shrubs with fertilizer or pruning. They are also preparing for rest and fertilizer and pruning signals the plant to grow. If these plants need winter protection, make sure you have all the materials you need to accomplish this task. I always use fencing material that blends in with the color of the green plant. This maintains as natural a look as possible.
Continue watering new or transplanted perennials, trees and shrubs. It is important these plants go into winter fully hydrated.
Stay ahead of autumn leaf pick up. Check with your municipality for directions on the disposal of leaves. If you have a large lawn, leaves can be chopped fine with a mulching lawn mower, the shredded leaves are left on the lawn to disappear between the blades of grass, enriching the soil as they compost.
Clean and store the summer containers. Some people wash their pots and then rinse them in a weak chlorine solution. I like the green, mossy look of my pots and usually just make sure they are dry and all the soil is removed before storing them out of the weather.
Be sure and clean your tools. Use a rag to apply household oil to all the metal parts of the tool and linseed oil to keep the wood from drying out. Good tools should last a lifetime and we all have our favorites.
Watch the weather for a good dry day or two to put away the summer furniture, containers, statues, bird baths etc. I always put off this task as long as possible. It helps me to leave a couple of chairs out that can quickly and easily be placed in storage when the time comes to give up for the winter season.
The wind begins to whisper of fall as we enjoy those last wistful days of summer. Leaves turn color and the sunlit days become shorter as we enjoy the last supper on the porch or the last campfire. Sweater weather sets in and we embark on autumn pursuits. Enjoy the last days in your garden.